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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, August 26, 2012

Date published:
August 26, 2012, 01:00
  • Armstrong: mixed reactions at USA Pro Challenge

    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 08:50
    Pat Malach

    Bauer, Michaelsen and Jacques-Maynes on USADA case

    Although many of the team directors, managers and riders at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado chose not to comment to the media about Lance Armstrong's decision not to fight the USADA allegations of performance enhancing drug use, those who did displayed a definite divide among their opinions.

    Spidertech-C10 team director Steve Bauer, who wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for 14 days in the mid-to-late 1980s, said it's time to put the controversy to rest.

    “I have a personal statement that's pretty simple,” he told Cyclingnews on Friday. “Lance versus USADA has nothing to do with our sport now. And that's all I have to say about that.”

    But Bauer did have more to add, saying the future of the sport looks positive because of the much stricter drug testing regimes and protocols.

    “The UCI has done a great job of developing the anti-doping program: the biological passport that all our professional cyclists have to abide by and adhere to,” he said. “We have the most stringent anti-doping policy of any sport in the world, which has probably imposed the cleanest professional sport in the world. So that's it. That's all I've got so say.”

    Bissell Pro Cycling veteran rider Ben Jacques-Maynes agreed with Bauer that things have changed for the better in cycling.

    “I race my race with my own ambitions, at the level I know I can do,” he said. “The people who dream bigger, but maybe don't have the ability are going to have to be happy with where they are now. I think the options are closing for cheaters and people who think bigger of themselves than the reality of the situation.”

    RadioShack-Nissan assistant team director Lars Michaelson said he agreed with Armstrong's decision to surrender to USADA, and that he hoped the anti-doping agency would focus on the future.

    “Speaking for myself, I think what Lance is doing was a good choice,” Michaelson said. “I think for the point USADA is making, they should focus on what's happening today and try to state some example of what testing they are capable of doing today instead of going back in time and spoiling a champion.”

    Michaelson also questioned why USADA appeared so Hell-bent on pursuing Armstrong.

    “Why? Tell me why? Give me one good reason why?” Michaelson asked. “They should have a heads up of what's happening today, that they are on top of things today. That's what they should show.”

    But Jacques-Maynes disagreed with that assessment, saying the pursuit of the truth surrounding Armstrong is an important step in the long road to cleaning up the sport he has devoted his professional life to.

    “This is the crux of when the new cycling really starts,” Jacques-Maynes said. “Everyone's been saying, year in year out, that this is the cleanest cycling's ever been. Well I think this is the first step. From this point, maybe it will start cleaning itself out. I don't think it's cleaned itself out yet. I think this is the first sign that however big your ambitions are, you're not too big to fail. People can go down, whatever you think of yourself.”

    While admitting a bit of frustration at having to deal with doping news at another big race, Jacques-Maynes also said he hopes people will continue to support and enjoy the sport he loves as it transitions from the old guard to a new one.

    “I just hope people pay attention to the big races that are happening,” he said. “That there are good results happening at the Tour of Portugal, the Vuelta, here in Colorado. There's a ton of great racing and good fight in those races.”

  • Simeoni: Justice has come a bit late in Armstrong case

    Armstrong instructs Filippo Simeoni to return to the peloton on stage 18 of the 2004 Tour de France.
    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 09:38
    Cycling News

    Italian recalls 2004 Tour de France clash

    Filippo Simeoni has welcomed the news that Lance Armstrong has opted not to contest the charges of doping and conspiracy levelled at him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, but the Italian noted that justice had taken a long time in coming.

    “I think that justice has come, even it’s come a bit late,” Simeoni told Radio Sportiva. “In the mind of the fans, the winner of those Tours will still be Armstrong.”

    Simeoni also warned that the challenge is now for cycling as a whole to continue the fight against doping with the same rigour shown by USADA in recent months. “You need to continue on these lines for many years to give credibility to the sport,” he said.

    In what would be one of the defining acts of his “patronage” of the Tour de France, Armstrong clashed with Simeoni on the road during the 2004 edition of the race.

    Armstrong had branded Simeoni “an absolute liar” in an interview with Le Monde in 2003 after the Italian had testified before an Italian court that Dr. Michele Ferrari had advised him to use EPO and testosterone in the late 1990s.

    Ferrari, who was Armstrong's trainer, has also been charged with doping by USADA, along with Armstrong’s then US Postal manager Johan Bruyneel. who is currently in charge of RadioShack-Nissan.

    “The story with Armstrong caused me a lot of pain and did me a lot of damage from a sporting point of view,” Simeoni said. “In 2004, everything was done to stop me from riding the Tour de France, there was even pressure from my own teammates.”

    Simeoni eventually was selected for the Acqua & Sapone team for the 2004 Tour, but when he infiltrated the early break on stage 18, the yellow jersey Armstrong bridged across, forcing Simeoni to drop out of the break.

    “He spoke with the other members of the break and everything went up in smoke,” Simeoni said. “When I understood that Armstrong was forcing me to sit up, he said bad things to me, and thinking of them now only makes me feel angrier.”

    “When I complained about these things, he was in charge of cycling and nothing was done about it. I paid for things that weren’t just: in the end, I only told the truth.”




  • Merckx continues support of Armstrong

    Eddy Merckx calls shotgun
    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 10:55
    Cycling News

    "It's deeply unjust," claims Belgian

    Eddy Merckx has expressed his support for Lance Armstrong following the American’s decision not to contest charges of doping and conspiracy by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

    Armstrong is set to be stripped of all results earned from August 1998, including his seven Tour de France titles, after USADA uncovered evidence of doping practices from Armstrong's time at US Postal, Discovery Channel and RadioShack, based on rider testimony and on Armstrong's own blood values from 2009 and 2010.

    Merckx has been a vocal supporter of Armstrong in spite of the evidence that has mounted against him over the past decade, and he continued in the same vein on Friday.

    “Lance has been very correct all through his career,” Merckx told La Dernière Heure. “What more can he do? All of the controls that he has done – over 500 since 2000 – have come back negative. Either the controls don’t serve any purpose or Armstrong was legit. The whole case is based on witnesses, it’s deeply unjust.”

    Armstrong’s decision not to contest the USADA charges means that he avoids a public hearing, although USADA CEO Travis Tygart has intimated that the evidence gathered will be made public in due course.

    “At a certain point, exasperation sets in. Lance told USADA, ‘Do what you want now, I don’t care,’” said Merckx, whose son Axel is manager of the Bontrager-Livestrong under-23 team.

    “I haven’t spoken to Lance recently but I know that he is disillusioned. It’s really a regrettable affair. It’s bad for cycling, and it’s bad for everybody.”


  • Froome suffers but limits gap on Collada de la Gallina

    Chris Froome (Sky) finishes up
    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 16:18
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Briton 15 seconds off the pace in ding-dong Vuelta finish

    After Team Sky had made the running on most of the Collada de la Gallina on stage 8 of the Vuelta a España, Chris Froome was squeezed out of the top three on the day in the closing kilometre of the challenging climb.

    Froome remains in second overall, but has dropped down to 33 seconds, after he came home 15 seconds down on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank). Froome said afterwards that “it was a really tough climb with Alberto and Purito and Valverde all there, although it made for an exciting race.”

    Asked if it was now a question of him against three Spaniards, Froome said with a smile “I hope not! Otherwise it’s going to make for two weeks of really tough racing.”

    Froome said that Wednesday’s 39 kilometre time trial will be a key moment of the race, but that the three stages in northern Spain’s mountains at the end of the second week would be equally important.

    “I’ll be going at the maximum there, but I’m still on a learning curve, it’s a new experience for me doing two Grand Tours in the same year. I don’t now how far it’ll get me, but there’s only one way to find out.”

    His rival Alberto Contador looked to be in far better shape than at the Fuerte del Ezaro in Jaca two days before, dropping Froome in the final kilometre although he ran out of gas close to the finish and could not take the stage.

    “I needed a little bit more power, but I’m very happy with how it worked out, we dropped Froome which was important,” Contador said.

    “I’m going well but not super-well, I’d have liked to have won but I was concentrating on Froome rather than on Alejandro and Joaquim when they came back up to me.

    “Either way, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but my big objective is still in Madrid, not here.”

  • Rodriguez: I can’t win the Vuelta unless Froome and Contador crack

    Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez fight for the stage win
    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 17:45
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Race leader doubtful about his chances of overall victory

    In the overall lead for the fifth day running of the Vuelta a España and close to netting a second stage win at Collada de la Gallina, Spain’s Joaquím Rodriguez (Katusha) has nonetheless made a brutally honest assessment of his chances of overall victory after Saturday’s stage: they are, he says, limited.

    “On paper, [Chris] Froome and Alberto [Contador] are going to be stronger than me in the time trial [39. 4 kilometres, on Wednesday],” Rodriguez said afterwards. “For me to win the Vuelta I’m going to have to ride the time trial of my life and then they will both have to have a really bad day.”

    “Alejandro [Valverde, fourth overall] and I are more one-day riders who can win Grand Tours – I came close in the Giro and Alejandro has won the Vuelta back in 2009. But these guys [Froome and Alberto] are specialists in the Grand Tours, really good time triallists, and we’re more for the world championships or one-day classics.”

    Rodríguez knows what it is like to lose major Tours in time trials – he relinquished the overall lead of the 2012 Giro on the final day in Milan and the 2010 Vuelta at Peñafiel during the race’s final test against the clock. In the Giro this May, he fell to second overall and in the Vuelta, to fourth.

    As to what conclusions can really be drawn from the first eight action-packed stages of the Vuelta, Rodríguez said that “nothing is decided. Today we’ve got a bit of time on Froome, the other day he and I got some time on Contador. Nobody seems to be really ahead of the rest.”

    In fact, all four riders in the top four had a difficult moment at one point or another on the Collada – Rodriguez at the bottom, then Valverde, next Froome when Contador attacked, and finally Contador himself at the very top.

    “Today was another insanely fast day, there were people in the bunch yelling that we should slow down, but nobody did. Every day it seems like we’re going faster,” Rodriguez said.

    “We’d been going so fast that I wasn’t feeling so great early on and I slipped back a little, but then could get back on.

    “Alejandro [Valverde] has got that sort of class that enables him to get the win at the last minute and which maybe I haven’t, he knows how to hit the accelerator exactly when he needs to win. It didn’t surprise me that he won, I know what he’s capable of doing.”

    ‘Purito’ lives for part of the year in Andorra, and he said it was “something special to be able to ride along streets where normally I go training and see there were people I knew out there, cheering me on. It was one of my most special days on the bike.”

    “It’ll also be very special to go into Catalunya [Rodriguez’s home region – ed.] and down to [Catalan capital] Barcelona wearing the red jersey of Vuelta leader. That’s going to be incredible.”

  • Report: Armstrong warned before all doping controls

    Lance Armstrong
    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 18:45
    Cycling News

    American said to have been given time “to cover his tracks”

    Lance Armstrong was “warned before all planned doping controls,” an adviser to the French anti-doping agency AFLD has said. Michel Rieu, scientific adviser to AFLD, said this was only one of the methods the American used to escape detection of his doping.

    "The inspectors encountered many difficulties in making unannounced checks. Armstrong was always informed in advance, so he still had twenty minutes to cover his tracks. He could thin his blood or replace his urine. He used the EPO only in small quantities, so it was no longer there to detect. We were powerless against this way of working,” Rieu told the Le Monde newspaper.

    He also claimed that Armstrong used a large network to help him with his doping, and his avoidance of positive doping controls. "Armstrong let himself  be surrounded by many physiologists. Also in the logistics field, everything was possible. The rumor was that his private jet was flying blood in from the United States.”

    Armstrong was on Friday given a lifetime ban by the USADA, with all his results since August 1998, disqualified, including his seven Tour de France victories. He had chosen not to challenge doping charges which the American agency had brought against him.

    French attorney Thibault de Montbrial, who defended the paper in a suit filed by Armstrong against LA Confidential authors David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, thinks the cumulative pressure of authors such as these and the SCA Promotions lawsuit that followed contributed to the downfall of Armstrong.

    He also believes riders are still showing suspicious signs.

    "Work together with Antoine Vayer [LeMond columnist], the performance specialist, helped show the implausibility of the power generated in watts on the climbs. Moreover, it is interesting to note that the UCI has banned the publication of such real-time statistics in 2012. And we can understand why when you see that the power production by [Bradley] Wiggins and [Chris] Froome (first and second of the Tour) is comparable to the turbulent times of the late 1990s and early 2000s."

  • Valverde continues Movistar’s strong Vuelta but says GC hopes are limited

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
    Article published:
    August 25, 2012, 20:00
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Spaniard moves into mountains jersey after claiming second stage win

    Movistar’s dream start to the Vuelta a España continued in Andorra on Saturday as Alejandro Valverde claimed the team’s third stage of a possible eight – equalling Argos-Shimano’s tally thus far – and simultaneously moved into the overall lead of the mountains classification. As if that were not enough, Valverde remains a very strong challenger for the overall in fourth place, 50 seconds down on leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

    Of course, it hasn’t all gone Movistar’s way, despite taking the team time trial in their home town of Pamplona on the race’s opening Saturday. The crash on stage four to Ezcaray, where Valverde lost the lead and Imanol Erviti got some very bad cuts and gashes to his face, was not a day to remember. And Juan José Cobo’s loss of five minutes on the Andorran climb saw the 2011 Vuelta winner sink to 27th overall at seven minutes, all hope of a repeat title in Madrid going up in smoke in the process.

    However, Valverde’s victory in Andorra, the 28th for Movistar in 2012, was a high point in the team’s season without a doubt.

    “I attacked because I wanted to get rid of some of the guys behind me overall, like Robert Gesink (Rabobank), not to try and do anything against the three ahead of me on GC,” Valverde revealed afterwards.

    “It had been a very hard stage, especially with the speed at the start and I could see that guys like Gesink were suffering.”

    Equally important, though, was that Valverde played his cards well when Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) attacked close to the finish. Rather than rise to the bait and try to follow the Madrileño, he opted to stick with Rodriguez, the ‘home boy’ who lives in Andorra for part of the year and who has trained on the Collada frequently.

    “I knew that Joaquim knew the climb really well, so I sat on his back wheel for as long as possible. He told me there was no way Alberto could maintain that kind of pace all the way to the finish, and he was right. It was a very tough climb, with constant changes of rhythm.

    “Then when I came into that last corner I attacked when he sat up a little, I knew if I was the first into that final corner, I’d have a chance.”

    Valverde says that the ‘four strongest riders on the race were the four strongest on today’s stage.” But he continues to play it very cautiously about his chances of fighting for the overall, saying that he has just completed a two-year suspension off the bike, has had more days racing this year than any of his rivals for the Vuelta GC and does not know how long his form can last. It’s not that he’s given up hope about it – which is why he attacked Gesink and co – but rather that he’s not going to start making any mission statements.

    “I’m just taking it on the day by day. I’ve no idea how long my form will last before I crack and I’ve been racing for a long time.” Valverde said. “Obviously I won’t give up just like that, but the other rivals are very strong. After getting that first stage win [at Arrate on Monday] everything else is a bonus.”

  • Axel Merckx stands by Armstrong

    Trek-Livestrong boss Axel Merckx still looks good on the bike
    Article published:
    August 26, 2012, 00:02
    Pat Malach

    Bontrager-Livestrong director says team won't be affected

    Bontrager-Livestrong director and former Lance Armstrong teammate Axel Merckx said Friday that he stands behind his friend and doesn't expect Armstrong's decision to not contest USADA allegations of doping to affect the development team the Texan partially owns.

    "All I can say is that in my eyes, and I think I can speak in the name of my family, when I say that we respect him immensely as an athlete," Merckx said. "He's an exceptional athlete, and that will stay forever, no matter what everybody says. He's a friend and he remains my friend, and he's always going to be my friend. I've known Lance forever. I stood by him when he was battling cancer, and I'll stand by him when he's being bashed around."

    Merckx, who rode with Armstrong on the Motorola squad in the mid-1990s, said he does not believe Armstrong's decision to accept the USADA ruling is an admission of guilt, but rather a result of being worn down by the constant allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs on his way to winning seven Tour de France titles.

    "He's giving up because it's enough," Merckx said. "It's damaging his image, it's damaging his foundation, and I can see where he's coming from. I'm really grateful for his commitment to cycling and his development of young riders in the US. And I think that everybody should recognize that, too."

    Merckx, who turned 40 during the Tour of Utah earlier this month, also said he doesn't see why this week's events between Armstrong and USADA should affect the Bontrager-Livestrong development team.

    "We are doing our job," Merckx said. "The guys are developing, and we are doing great things for cycling in the US. Everybody recognizes that here in the US and worldwide, and the attention that we get as a team and the presence of us and the results that we've had over the last years proves that this program works and it's something really cool.

    "I think it would be a big mistake to stop this, especially for next year and long term," Merckx continued. "I think we need this development cycling like that. Especially a team like this. Having a commitment from a sponsor like Trek is unbelievable."

    Merckx said Bontrager-Livestrong is one of the few development teams that is not a feeder program for a UCI Pro Team, and because of that serves a unique and valuable role in US cycling.

    "The thing is also, we are a team that doesn't limit the riders after they leave the program," he said. "We let them go wherever they want, whether they race on Cannondale or a BMC or whatever bike it is. We're just committed to developing riders in the US. That's the goal of this team, and I can't see why that would change."